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Understanding globalization outside 'global cities': European provincial cities in the first globalization, 1880-1914

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EPCFG (Understanding globalization outside 'global cities': European provincial cities in the first globalization, 1880-1914)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

The project “Understanding globalization outside 'global cities': European Provincial Cities in the First Globalization, 1880-1914” (EPCFG) aims to bring new perspectives and understanding to the phenomenon of globalization by studying its historic meanings and effects in specific cities in north western Europe. Today, commonplace everyday usages of the term ‘globalization’ tend to refer to the very late 20th century and the early 21st century, but for EPCFG the focus is on the era of history known by some historians as the ‘first globalization’, roughly 1880-1914. Studying this period of globalization helps us both to better understand this earlier period, as well as serving the important goal of helping to make sense of globalization in the present day.
EPCFG takes a global history approach. Global historians believe that the historical discipline’s traditional focus on nation-states and national histories limits its insights and therefore address themselves to historical research questions with a wider lens. Some historians are sceptical of both global history as an approach, and globalization as a paradigm, accusing both of tending to gloss over differences and to obscure the diversity of different ways in which processes of inter-connectedness took shape in the late nineteenth century. Hence, historians of globalization would benefit from detailed immersion into specific locales. Of particular importance to the insertion of specific spaces into global history, must be cities. Hence the other important historical sub-discipline for EPCFG is urban history, which has a long-standing interest in using cities as case studies or focal points for the study of broad historical phenomena. The project brings these two approaches together.
This is the context in which EPCFG has been conceived: with the aim of understanding how globalization operated and most importantly what it ‘felt like’ on the ground during the period. For the purposes of EPCFG what are most interesting are the social, cultural and political meanings of globalization.
The objectives of EPCFG are to research these questions through case studies of two European cities: Manchester and Lille. The objectives are 1. to identify the ways (if any) in which citizens of the two cities believed that their experience of globalization was distinctive and/or globalization had meanings which were unique to the city, because of the specific character of their cities. 2. To assess whether particular kinds of urban activities were especially associated with globalization and to determine how these associations took shape. 3. To map spaces within the city which were especially associated with globalization and to analyse their meanings. 4. To assess the role that globalization played in the conduct of city politics. The further objective of EPCFG is to disseminate the results of the research to academic colleagues through participation in conferences, and publication of two journal articles and a book. The project also involves activities to disseminate the results to the general public.
The researcher pursued four strands of work during his time at the Free University Berlin. The first strand of work comprised training and personal and professional development. Formal training included training in the German language at the university’s language centre, as well as professional development classes with the university’s Dahlem Research School. Informal training took the form of integration of the researcher into the professional and intellectual life of the global history department of the Free University Berlin.
The second strand of work comprised teaching. The researcher designed and taught a postgraduate course on ‘Cities in Global History: Global Urban History at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, 1880-1930.’
The third strand of work comprised research. The bulk of the researcher’s time was taken up working with the scholarly literature on global and urban history, familiarizing himself with the relevant scholarly approaches and debates. An archival trip to Manchester was also undertaken. A hoped-for archival trip to Lille was delayed by other work, and then rendered impossible by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The research work shaped the fourth strand of work, dissemination. The researcher spoke about aspects of his work at several academic conferences. A journal article, a historiographical discussion of the ways that global histories of the nineteenth century have changed the field, connecting work published in German and English to work in French, is completed and will be published in Revue d’Histoire du XIX Siècle soon. Publications still in progress, and therefore to be published in the future, include a journal article on the ways in which elites in industrial cities were pro-active agents attempting to guide globalization to their advantage where possible, and to shape local ideas about globalization in the same direction. A book manuscript, called ‘A Place in the World’: Manchester, Lille and the European Industrial City in the First Globalisation, 1880-1914, is in progress. The researcher was unable to complete the manuscript for review by the end of the post but will complete it in his next post.
EPCFG contributes to a growing field known as global urban history. The specific contribution of EPCFG is to identify the role of elites in industrial cities, working to be pro-active agents responding to the processes we associate with globalization. Local elites were not always agents for globalization, but rather they felt themselves implicated in it and responded in ways that made sense according to their understanding of the local interest. Promoting local agency in response to globalization served the useful political strategy of securing cross-class political allegiances in the city itself. Therefore the key insight of EPCFG is that we need to incorporate local experiences of globalization into understandings of the social and political processes that made European societies what they were around the turn of the twentieth century.
These results will be shared in ‘du tableau à la mosaique,’ an article completed and due to be published in Revue d’Histoire du XIX Siecle, and in an article and monograph in progress.
In addition to its contribution to historical scholarship, especially in global urban history, EPCFG is of interest to the wider European public. EPCFG’s results bring a richer picture of globalization and of life in general in Europe around the turn of the twentieth century. Europe developed in the manner it did in the modern period in part because of its connections to all parts of the world, both those regions which were part of European formal empires and those which were not. Europe’s subsequent trajectory in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries also can only be understood when set into the context of the rest of the world. These processes have been especially visible, and their effects especially acute, in industrial cities in north western Europe, which have often seen economic and social decline. By understanding what globalization meant on the ground in European cities in the late nineteenth century we can better understand its impact in the early twenty-first. In this sense EPCFG serves the important European Commission goal of strengthening European societies and democracy.
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